I am drawn to people with passion and vision. That's much of the reason that I started my podcast--because I wanted to have conversation with people who share my history-lust. Talking to such people causes me to fall in love with my chosen profession (and the whole entire world, for that matter) all over again.

I was similarly drawn to the passion shown in Wallace J. Nichol's Oceanophilia post (thanks @hallnjean) about ocean-love and neuroscience. He writes:
We humans offer up our dreams, our secrets and our treasures to the sea from whence we came...What is it about the ocean that speaks to us on such a fundamental, profound human level? I have always wanted to know, but my chosen profession, science -- skeptical, detached, dispassionate science -- wouldn't allow me to go there.

When I was a graduate student, I tried to weave that big human Love into my dissertation on the relationship between sea turtle ecology and coastal communities. No luck. My advisors steered me to other departments, another career even. "Keep that 'emotional' stuff out of your science, young man," they counseled. Emotion wasn't rational. It wasn't quantifiable. It wasn't science...

We must seize this particular moment in time -- when the nascent power of neuroscience is burgeoning and the popular momentum is toward conservation rather than exploitation. We can use science to explore and understand the profound and ancient emotional and sensual connections that lead to deeper relationships with the ocean. I believe that if we do that we have an opportunity for real conservation gains that could do some true and lasting good for the ocean and planet Earth.

It's time to drop the old notions of separation between emotion and science. Emotion is science. Let's convene the top marine scientists, skilled communicators, dedicated conservationists, and leading neurobiologists and cognitive psychologists to ask and answer the most probing and compelling set of questions about the ocean that we can imagine. Let's explore the mind-ocean connection -- oceanophilia.

His thoughts about oceanophilia echo many other things that are whirling around in my brain this morning. In just a few hours I will abandon all of the tasks on my list and head out for a few hours on my outrigger. To let the ocean tug and push me as she may, while I paddle, paddle, paddle. The connection with the water will stretch and pull me into balance once again.

And at the same time, I'm thinking a lot about my experience yesterday at THATCampSoCal (a tech-humanities un-conference). A primary theme running through the day was how to forge (and control) one's online identity in a way that will be an asset in the pursuit for a tenure-track job. The hiring and promotion practices for historians are so capricious. One certainly can't second-guess all that happens behind the scenes in such interactions. While I want to be thoughtful and careful with my online presence, the thought of having an imaginary search committee governing my actions is so much like the way I used to think about Mormon God--the attempt to "please" someone who was so remote and nebulous and judgmental--it had the hair standing up on the back of my neck.

Instead, I want to throw myself into my life. Letting my passion and my curiosity drive my choices and my research. I expect that I will make mistakes. I suspect that I will be accused of "not doing it right." I suspect that I may never get tenure. But I need poetry and art and sunshine (and moonlight). I need waves that pull and bump and threaten me. I need to tell my stories without worry about how they will affect my job security.

The internet has been my playground for the past decade--just because academia has finally found it, too, I don't want to lose the immediacy and the thrill of this space.

And, below, another link I just had to share (if only because of my long-time crush on Bill Nye):


Rah said...

Hold onto those thoughts. As another academic, I can tell you that it is easiest to sell your soul; more difficult to maintain all the qualities you describe. Thankfully, the rewards outweigh the pressures!

Liz said...

"A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. The true value of a human being is determined by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive. (Albert Einstein, 1954)"

I love Albert. He was a philosopher-scientist.